Within the first 24 hours on YouTube, the MV for BTS‘s “DNA” shattered K-pop records. Setting a new record for fastest K-pop group to receive ten million views and twenty million views, “DNA” was much evidently anticipated by old fans and a growing number of new ARMYs. And BTS doesn’t disappoint. They deliver a trippy MV full of lurid colors with messages about humanity and virtual reality, and with the backing of a future bass song about pre-destined love.
In an interview with Billboard, Rap Monster explains the underlying concept behind “DNA”:
When we’re talking about our title tracks, “DNA” is about the expression of a young, passionate love. The lyrics are like, “The two of us our connected fatefully from the start, our DNA was just the one thing.” At the same time, “DNA” is taking BTS to new ground. We tried to apply new grammar and perspectives — if you listen to the song, you’ll understand what I’m trying to say — it’s very different from our previous music, technically and musically. I believe it’s going to be the starting point of a second chapter of our career; the beginning of our Chapter Two.
Upon hearing the song, one can definitely hear what Rap Monster discusses. The lyrics revolve around two lovers, both innately intertwined by their universe-determined fate:
The DNA in my blood is telling me
That it’s you who I’ve been looking for
Our encounter is a mathematical formula
The law of religion, the ways of the universe
And later, the chorus affirms that the two lovers’ meetings “was not coincidence.” Rather, that they have “found their destiny”. The song asserts that their love was preordained in every way possible, down to the very forces governing the natural world, and that the signals within the main character’s DNA was only one of those telling signs. Essentially, its a dramatic declaration of fated love, similar in nature to an extremely lengthy, itemized pick-up line.
The MV interestingly both reiterates and stands in contrast to the song’s message. There are scenes that show a connectivity between human beings that can easily be linked back to the fated linkage between the two lovers in the lyrics. For instance, the scene with a constant camera rotation of the BTS members on a geometric background, the shots of them against a celestial space body, and the final scene with the moon backdrop all seem to give off the message that when you strip people down to their foundations, we are all essentially the same.
It seems to assert that we are all small beings, all under the umbrella of the universe and subject to its every whim and fancy — serfs under its governance and laws. This provides a parallel to the way the universe presented in the lyrics appear to orchestrate the lovers’ meeting without their control.
There are also graphics of mathematical equations and organic chemistry formulas present in the very beginning scene focused on Jungkook as well as a scene near the end focused on Jimin; evidently callbacks to the “mathematical formula” explicitly compared to the lovers’ destined encounter in the lyrics. In addition, the scene where the members of BTS dance and touch their mirrored selves are reminiscent of the symmetrical double helix structures of DNA.
There are pictures of DNA in a blue and purple room in other scenes, and there is a scene focusing on the colors of space fusing together to make up what we see of Jungkook’s eyes. This all obviously links back to the motif of DNA and how it connects human beings on a fundamental level by providing a common genetic base for all of us, even if the order of the elements in the structure vary.
However, the MV also seems to be pushing the idea of virtual reality. In the beginning, the robotic rotating shots around Jungkook remind me of camera movements I often see during CGI-heavy scenes in anime.
Furthermore, the color palette used throughout the MV, with its focus on primary colors, occasional purples and cyans, superimposed space backdrops, basic geometric shapes, inclusion of a black and white grid pattern, simplistic sets, and swirls of bright colors are all reminiscent of ’90’s computer graphics. This suggests that the MV takes place, at least partially, in a world of virtual reality.
At first glance, virtual reality may seem to be the very opposite of human inter-connectivity. However, some people argue that virtual reality brings us together as people more than ever, by allowing us to share others’ experiences, normally impossible in real life.
By giving us a lane to exercise empathy with others, virtual reality could expand the common ground between humans to our mental perceptions and shared experiences. This supports the song and MV’s themes of human connectedness.
Furthermore, people often acknowledge that a virtual world permits people the power to fully exert free will. People can be who they want to be in the virtual realm, and do whatever they please without being restricted by the straitjackets of societal norms and physical limits; possibly bringing us closer to the true human condition.
This provides a antithetical view of the predetermined love in the lyrics. Perhaps this signifies that there is an underlying truth to human affairs behind all the pretensions of universal guidance and destiny; we are actually all in full control of what we do and who we love, but we like to designate the causes of our everyday occurrences to the more glamorous notions of fate.
On a different note, the whistling melody present in the intro weaves its way into backing guitar strums and underneath the members’ vocals throughout the song. This all transitions into a future bass drop containing the trendy choppy synths characteristic of the genre. However, BTS spices things up by adding old-school dubstep growls to back the synths in lieu of the ones used in more contemporary electronic music.
In addition, they eschew the standard sawtooth synths used in a lot of recent future bass music, and instead opt for a warmer saw. All of this is a marked deviation from their recent songs such as “Dope”, “Fire”, “Blood Sweat & Tears”, and “Not Today”, of which boast a general trap-influenced electronic sound.
The choreography is dynamic as usual, emphasizing the short and sudden stabs of synths in the chorus and percussion in the build-ups with the members’ hard-hitting moves. When needed, the members are fluid in their execution as well. There are bits and pieces connecting back to the idea of human connectedness, like when the members link hands to create huge arm waves — reminiscent of the ubiquitous spiraling of DNA strands.
As Rap Monster describes, “DNA” is a departure from their previous musical sound. Nonetheless, its interesting MV and catchy hook are all easily recognizable attributes of BTS that will likely remain constant throughout their metamorphosis as musicians. Although the MV doesn’t necessarily break the ground of social consciousness, it still communicates an intriguing look about human relatedness and how virtual reality helps to further the true human condition through ’90’s computer-esque colorful visuals and shapes. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to reading the chapter two of their career.
(Billboard, Recode, Images via Big Hit)